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Within the Law

Within the Law(1939)

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Remind Me

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When shopgirl Mary Turner is framed by one of her co-workers for stealing store jewelry, hard-boiled department store owner Mr. Gilder prosecutes her and insists that the judge sentence her to three years in prison rather than allow her to serve a probation at the store. In prison, Mary asks the librarian to recommend reading material, and when Mary tells her the length of her prison sentence, the librarian recommends the novel Gone With the Wind . Because she has decided to exact revenge on the man who ruined her life, Mary declines the novel and instead asks to read law books. During her three years behind bars, Mary befriends fellow inmate Agnes, a gangster's moll, who introduces Mary to gangster boss Joe Garson when they are released from prison. Mary soon becomes the mastermind of the gang by counseling them to always stay within the law, take advantage of the loopholes and confound the police and prosecutors by legal trickery. Mary soon decides to take revenge on Gilder by involving the gang in a scheme to extort a large sum of money from him. When Mary sends Agnes to Gilder's store to pose as a customer and raise Gilder's suspicions that she is paying with a bad check, Agnes is arrested and the gang sees to it that her check is good. The false accusation causes Gilder embarassment and forces him to pay Agnes a settlement of $20,000 to keep the incident out of the courts. The second part of Mary's revenge scheme begins when she starts to date Gilder's son Richard, who does not know about Mary's past. One month passes, and after Mary and Richard secretly marry, Richard introduces her to his father, who immediately reveals Mary's past to his son. Although Mary admits that she married Richard to avenge herself, Richard refuses to believe that she is capable of stealing and ignores his father's demand that the marriage be annulled. Later, just as the male members of the gang are about to steal a valuable Rembrandt painting from Gilder's house, Mary and Agnes learn of the robbery and go to Gilder's to try to stop them. When Mary is caught in Gilder's home, she is accused of the attempted theft until it is discovered that gang member "English" Eddie Morton tipped off the police about the theft in order to frame Mary. Shortly thereafter, it is learned that Eddie has been killed. In order to protect herself, Mary insists that Richard shot Eddie to defend his home, and Richard does not deny the charge. Police Chief McGuire, who does not believe that Richard was the killer, questions Joe, who remains loyal to Mary and confesses his guilt. Meanwhile, Richard is informed by the detectives whom he hired to investigate the store theft that Mary did not steal anything and that the real thief has been caught. Consequently, Gilder repents and begs Mary's forgiveness, and Mary is free to begin her life over with Richard.